Weighted vest, plate carrier, straight jacket vest, short-top vest, rucking vest, hyper vest… which weighted vest should you choose when there’s so much variety on the market?
To answer this question I’m going to take you through my own decision making process when I bought my own weighted vest. They all have their virtues, so it’s not like one model is better than the others; it’s more a question of which is the most suitable for your needs and requirements.
Your training approach should determine your equipment choices, not the other way round.
I use weighted vests in my own training and with my personal training clients. I think the additional weight is hugely beneficial and adds another dimension to exercises that have ceased to be challenging.
I’ve been using them for a decade now and have tested a whole bunch, so here’s my advice on the best weighted vests money can buy…
**If you’re in a rush, here are the 3 best weight vests (based on your goal):
Not all weighted vests serve the same purpose so I’m going to make suggestions based on different intended uses. Many weighted vests share a lot of the same features though, so rather than just repeat myself I’ll give my thoughts on the best weighted vest for…
These are the main activities people will be doing in a weighted vest, so in these three categories I cover all of the boxes and won’t bore you with unnecessary repeats of the same handful of features.
We’ll look at details such as max weight capacity, straps thickness, weight adjustability, size and price.
If you’re looking for a weighted vest for general strength training, look no further than the weight vest from Titan Fitness. I’ve selected the 60LB one as the go-to option because it offers the most weight (more weight is a good thing in strength training!)
The vest itself is really well made and it’s super comfortable. The thick shoulder straps mean there’s no digging in when the weight gets heavy, which can be an issue on models with thinner straps. It also means they’re far less likely to slip off the shoulder during exercises such as burpees.
The weight is adjustable in 2.5LB increments, which I love because it means the user has a huge amount of control over the weight. The downside is that with such small weight increments, there’s a lot of weights to take out to reduce the weight significantly.
In terms of build quality, this thing goes above its price point. Hard wearing material, quality velcro strapping and the rounded pockets prevent wear and tear. It’s built to last so will see plenty of use. The velcro strapping allows for plenty of adjustment so it’ll fit almost everyone.
One final point I love here is the vest has three sets of weight pockets, which means you can evenly distribute the weight across the vest. It makes it SO much more comfortable during use than the vests where the weight is all in one section.
The general user reviews are outstanding as well…
When it comes to CrossFit, there’s just no other game in town. There are good plate carriers, but there’s only one elite plate carrier and that’s the 5.11 TacTec. It’s the one used in the CrossFit games and with good reason. Bear in mind though, you’re paying a premium for the quality.
It’s a combination of style, function and comfort. The vest comes in eight color varieties and is customisable with the classic patches, so you can make it your own. It doesn’t make it a better vest, but it’s a cool addition.
Whilst the vest itself isn’t the heaviest, nor is it the most adjustable (can be 10LB, 14LB, 20LB and 30LB), there’s enough adjustment to provide a challenge to anyone. There’s also variety in plate styles, with cast plates or laser cut plates available (cast plates being the heavier, but beyond that there’s no real difference in quality or function).
From a construction point of view, this vest is badass. It’s built to last, has high quality stitching and is super-adjustable. The ‘yoke’ straps come with thick padding, making running in the vest comfortable. The plate carrier can be adjusted across the shoulders and waist, making it fit you well.
Finally, the slimline profile of the vest means it lacks bulk, so for exercises such as burpees it’s perfect. I also like the balance of a front and back weight plate, because it makes it more comfortable to wear than a vest where the weight is all in the front.
Elite products have elite reviews…
A weighted vest for running has to have a different set of characteristics compared with others. It needs to fit very securely across the waist, without being too restrictive. It also has to be comfortable across the shoulders, because it’ll be bouncing up and down literally thousands of times each run.
The other point with a weighted running vest is it has to sit comfortably on the chest and not have any front-to-back movement. The last thing you want on a run is your vest banging into your chest as you try to breathe! Thankfully, the design of the Condor Sentry Plate Carrier means these aren’t a problem.
It’s a basic model, but that’s all you need in a running weighted vest. The features it does have are exactly where you need them. There are thick, adjustable shoulder straps and the waist straps have an in-built clip and buckle mechanism, so you can adjust the sides to be comfortable and stop any front-to-back movement when it’s in use.
The vest can be used at 3 weights – 14LB, 20LB and 30LB. The vest is compatible with Rogue plates, so it’s an easy set up. The Rogue weight plates mean it’s also very streamlined, so it’s not the worst choice in the world for a CrossFit vest either.
This is fantastic value and is the perfect weighted vest for running in. It’s the only one I’d be looking at if I were you. The design, comfort and build quality are all ideal and the price point is fair too.
When you dig into each one, there’s fundamental differences between a weighted vest and a plate carrier. Rather than hit you with a huge explanation of why, here’s the bullet points version…
There are reasons why you’d pick one over the other, which we’ll get into later on. Whilst they’re both capable of multi-use, you’re better off picking one over the other for a number of practical reasons.
In this section I’m going to answer a lot of the questions you may have about weighted vests. This will tell you all you need to know about what you should be looking for in a vest…
Yes. You’ll need to allow for progression – when you first start using a weighted vest you won’t be as capable as you will in time, because you’ll get fitter and stronger. You also want to have options, because you’re stronger in some exercises than others. For example, you’ll be able to use more weight for squats than you would for pull ups, for example.
None of the vests here are on the cheap side – they’re all mid-price and above. The reason you should avoid cheaper materials are comfort, quality (stitching can come loose) and durability. Cheaper materials simply don’t last as long under use.
You don’t need to – in fact ladies only vests are notorious for bad reviews, based simply on the fact that there’s no ‘standard’ sized woman! If you look at the CrossFit games all of the girls wear the same vest as the guys, just with a lighter plate on board. Comfort is decided by the padding and the straps, not by the shape of the vest across the chest.
These are the features you should be looking out for when you’re making your choice.
If your goal is to get stronger, you’re going to need more weight. A maximum weight of at least 30LB – ideally heavier. The Titan Fitness weighted vest I recommended goes to a maximum weight of 60LB, which is ideal.
Generally speaking there are two types of weighted vest – those weighed with a couple of plates and those with multiple smaller weights. The vests with the multiple smaller weights allow for much more control than the plates, because you can make adjustments in smaller increments. This means they’re better for outright resistance training.
The best weights in a vest to run in are the plate style – there’s only two plates in a vest, so less movement occurs in the weights. They’re also bigger and flatter, which makes them more comfortable for running in.
The more weight or moving you do in a vest, the more important the straps are. You want them to be wide, which distributes load across a greater surface area. Likewise, you need thick padding if you’re running or jumping in the vest.
If you’re going to be doing lots of dynamic exercise such as running and burpees, it’s better to have a slimmer profile vest on. This will allow you to get closer to the floor and will be a lot more comfortable and less cumbersome in use.
There’s no ‘best’ overall weighted vest, instead there’s a best for your requirements. That’s why I’ve suggested a best weighted vest for each of the three categories, because they have their strengths and weaknesses.
If you’re looking for a weighted vest to use in your strength training, I love this one from Titan. For CrossFit, this 5.11 TacTec Plate Carrier Vest is the clear winner; for running, I highly recommend the Condor Sentry Plate Carrier (also from Rogue).
Decide what you’re going to need your vest for, then buy accordingly. Don’t buy any old vest and then think ‘what am I going to do with this?!’
A weighted vest is a great investment and can transform your training forever, throwing in new challenges all the time.